I am currently entertaining thoughts of furnishing my basement. I was wondering if this paper-like paste on the sides of the entire cold air return duct is going to pose a problem as far as health risks. There is also on other small area around a heating duct where this same material is located on an wide and flat elbow-like piece that goes right up to and through the floor and connected to the exhaust chimney (about a 3 ft by 2 ft area covered with this plaster, paper-like stuff).

I was wondering if I could seal/encapsulate these areas then carefully drywall around the cold air return. This house was build in 1947 and I think i am somewhat lucky and very thankful I'm not dealing with even more areas covered with asbestos. Do you guys think I should just have the cold air return removed along with the other area or can I seal it up somehow?

None of these areas look very disturbed other than an area on a beam where my parents had to have some asbestos professionally removed because before they replaced the furnace 15 yrs ago. Wish they would have removed at least this elbow piece. I sorta remember my dad being pissed that they wouldn't replace the furnace until it was removed. They should have removed this elbow piece also.

  • 1
    Do you need to disturb it? If left undisturbed it likely poses no health hazard. This material is on the outside of the ducts in question, yes? Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 21:59
  • 5
    A picture would help understand exactly what you're talking about. Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 19:54
  • "paper-like paste" does not sound like asbestos to me. A picture would help though. Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 13:36

2 Answers 2


Get a quote for removal or if you're uncomfortable with all of its hype, then definitely have someone else get rid of it. Do get rid of it, don't pass it on.

But, here's what you're in for if you're adventurous & it's accessible, water is the key & removes all of asbestos' harm.

Of course, get an N95 mask, goggles, nitrile gloves, duct tape & disposable jumpsuit with a hood. All go in the trash, wrap them in the tarps.

Tarp the floor & whatever else you can with a disposable tarp (tape multiple tarps together for verticals running onto horizontals) as this will be your final clean-up & catch-all. You actually want to tuck the floor's tarp edge in your belt & not actually walk on the tarp's top side (so you don't track anything out of the work area). When everything's done you'll water-down again & brush one last time onto the tarp.

But first, it's just a water soaking & clear bag wrapping process (in that order) to then pull, scrape & brush it clean off within the bag. It's not radioactive like some people try to portray in its "danger". I've done it 6-times over the last 20-years & I don't have any asbestosis whatsoever.

You'll want to rinse off the sealed bags outside or down a drain along with the tools after each section is completed. Like above, the tools get left in the rolled-up tarps. Remove excess air from the bags outside & then double bag everything so trash-men nor anyone else aren't accidentally exposed.

The next day you can brush-paint over the areas to remove any doubt & lingering "danger". Toss the brush & paint, because OMG...I'm kidding but you can for a clean & clear conscience & refreshed Aura. This is all way overkill & asbestos is in everyone's air & always has been. But, done & done right aren't the same thing & no-one should be unknowingly subjected to any bulk amount of fibers.

Let me know if I left anything out, please.

  • it seems you didn't actually answer the OP's question. The question was "What is this stuff?"
    – Bulrush
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 9:51
  • It wasn't a question, he answered that twice in his question. He wanted to know if he can leave or cover it...both are bad & it must be removed whenever possible.
    – Iggy
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 12:22

I suggest having it tested and removed if necessary. At some point a project or repair will come along and it will have to be dealt with whether it was covered up or not.

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